Tempers flared at today's committee of the whole meeting as Wake County school board members argued over a resolution that would be used to apply for a federal magnet schools grant.
With the recent adoption of the community schools resolution, the board needs to adopt a voluntary desegregation plan to apply for the grant. If successful, Wake could get up to $12 million in federal dollars to jumpstart the district's three newest magnet schools - Smith and Brentwood elementary schools and Millbrook High.
Members of the board majority said the resolution complies with the grant application guidelines. But members of the board minority accused the majority of paying lip service to diversity just to get grant money.
The resolution, which has been added to today's meeting agenda, says the district is "committed to provide diverse settings for education that promote an understanding and appreciation of cultural differences."
The resolution then incorporates wording from the community schools directive, such as the timeframes for developing the new assignment system and maintaining magnet schools as viable options for families.
"The Community-Based assignment model will also include an evaluation component to provide regular review of each zone attendance area in an effort to reduce and/or prevent minority group isolation," according to the resolution.
It then ends with the resolution saying the school board "reaffirms the importance of magnet schools in WCPSS as a tool for voluntary desegregation."
School board member John Tedesco said there's a false perspective in the community that people who value community schools don’t support diversity.
Minority members repeatedly accused the majority of including the wording in the resolution about diversity and desegregation solely to get grant money. They brought up how the majority had voted 5-4 on March 23 against an amendment to say that the new system would not lead to segregated schools.
"I believe this is wordsmithing to get the money," said board member Anne McLaurin.
But Tedesco and board member Debra Goldman said the amendment was too vague in not setting parameters on what would be considered segregation.
Tedesco said the amendment was "political rhetoric" and that community zones can go hand and hand with diversity. But McLaurin didn't buy that statement.
"It’s like waiting for Santa Claus," McLaurin said of the community zone model. "If there was a plan, we’d see it on the table.”
McLaurin said she hasn't seen any community zone models that don't lead to resegregation.
THE RESOLUTION PASSED BY THE USUAL 5-4 VOTE AFTER A MOTION TO SEND IT TO COMMITEE WAS REJECTED BY THE SAME 5-4 COALITION.